THE BEGINNING On Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 7:29pm I had a four-minute phone call with my mom that left me sobbing for the remainder of my drive home. Her story was of the grim outlook on my grandma’s health situation. So grim, in fact, that my mom isn’t certain if she’ll make it to Christmas. The instant wave of grief shook me to the core and brought all my loss from the past five years flooding in from the hidden crevices of my brain. An iron first started clenching my heart like it was some sick game to see how much pain I could handle.
YEAR ONE: Sam
It was my freshman year of college when I felt my first loss. I was a mere two months into the semester when my friend Sam got into a car accident involving a semi that ultimately claimed his life only one short week later. I remember so many crystal clear moments between the night after the accident and the end of that semester.
I remember the first phone call. I remember the phone call. I remember making a road trip to Colorado with Robb, Jimmy, and Josh with our last-minute trip change to end us in Minnesota for Sam’s funeral. I remember on specific moment of paralyzing sadness.
Sam was a fun-loving young man with bouncing brown curly hair, a contagious, room-filling laugh, a huge heart to serve, and the biggest and brightest wide-mouthed smile. Sam loved the Lord.
YEAR TWO: Tony
I was halfway around the world and halfway through my spring semester as a sophomore when I got a call from Kelsey Telling me our friend, Tony, hung himself in a bedroom closet at a party.
I couldn’t make it back from Africa for the funeral.
Tony Had the air of California surfer dude, playing it chill all day every day, but with long brown hair and a guitar rather than a surf board. I sift through my plethora of memories hoping to pull one out that would bring me peace about Tony’s eternity but instead I am left regretting never having led him to the Lord myself.
YEAR THREE: Ben
I don’t remember how I was told. But I know that my first news was that Ben was missing. The story is that he was camping with a group of friends when he randomly boarded a canoe and paddled out into the darkness of night. After a few long days of searching they found him at the bottom of the lake.
Josh and I traveled to Minnesota once again for another funeral.
Ben was shy around me at first due to a crush but I found him inclined to let me fill up the space with as many or as few words as I needed. He was a brilliant writer with long, spirally orange locks and a persistent twinkle in his eye.
YEAR FOUR: Rick
We moved into the lower apartment of Rick’s house the summer after Josh and I wed. That November we found out Rick was sick with Esophageal and Liver cancer. His footsteps upstairs grew sparse then went quiet. That’s when we found out Rick was admitted to the hospital.
I visited unannounced and on a whim one day. My heart longed to know Rick found the Lord before his end. I wrote him a letter and brought it up to his room with me. His dad was there and the shadow of a man lying in the hospital bed was almost unrecognizable – he looked like a concentration camp victim. That was the last time I saw Rick.
Less than a week later Josh and I trekked out to Romeoville for the funeral. It broke my heart because there were only about 20 people there and the couple of people who shared words didn’t actually have much to say.
Rick believed he was a lost cause and he was so full of regret he thought himself far from love and unforgivable. He was a determined strong man both in will and in strength but he also had a loving soft spot that I got a little slice of every now and then. His wrinkled face told of the life of battle and loss and regret but his blue eyes clung to kindness.
YEAR FIVE: Grandpa Bud
Josh and I got a call from my mom that Grandpa was at his end. We packed up immediately and hit the long 7 hour road. In the end we missed Grandpa by 20 minutes.
About a week later Josh and I sang at the funeral.
Grandpa Bud was a gentle loving and giving old man. Many spoke of his legacy of generosity but what I loved most about him was his stark white hair, boyish grin, and the way he always called me “love.”
YEAR SIX: Tundra
My childhood best friend left me this fall. Just a week or so before I got to see her and that experience alone broke my heart. She could barely breathe but she didn’t know it so in her excitement of seeing me she nearly coughed up a lung.
Even then I had known it was the last time I would snuggle my first baby. I still remember visiting the litter of puppies with my heart full of promise. Tundra won my over instantly. She was too shy, scared, and quiet for anyone else but found something safe in me. I grew up telling her all of my growing pain and cried, many a time, into her fluffy white mane.
Tundra was an emotional dog with a lot of love to give and a permanent smile.
THE END The hardest part of any loss is the aching hole left by the love longing to reach out to the one lost. I guess on the brink of another loss I find the need to reflect on all of it. Death is only a part of the pattern of life. But my heart so longs for the certainty that all of my loved ones are founded in faith so I can await sharing in the heavenly celebration with them.